(still) the one skill to focus on above all others …

I see this problem a lot: People are into self-improvement, and they’ve tried various things, but they’re still struggling. The worst part? They think it’s their fault (it’s not). The real problem is that our instincts focus us on the problem rather than the solution. But it’s easy to fix.

Anyway, that’s what this week’s post is about.



  • The real reason one can be into self-improvement but still struggling (it’s not what you think.) 
  • Great examples of focusing on the problem rather than the solution.
  • Why you should continue to work on cognitive control, even if you’ve already read RYIG.
  • Watch/listen to get the full message.



1) The ACADEMY is OPEN! Crazy. More on that coming soon, but you can check it out now at https://davidlevin.com/academy-info. 

2) NOW AVAILABLE: Limited Edition Raise Your Inner Game Medallion. Carry it in your purse or pocket. It’s an UP button for your Inner Elevator! Visit DavidLevin.com to learn more and order yours. (FREE shipping!)

3) Free guide: “Three Things You Can Do Right Now To Start Loving Your Work (And Life) Again.” Visit davidlevin.com to get yours today!

4) Check out our podcast, The David Levin Show. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-david-levin-show/id1401013964


Okay, back to reading. Finished “Texas Ranger” by James Patterson. Started it because it was Patterson, but barely finished. Pretty bad, honestly. Not recommended (unless maybe you’re a country music fan, which I’m not.). 

Starting “The Hellfire Club” by Jake Tapper. Pretty good so far. Also started “The Fixer” by Bradley Tusk. Non-fiction, but very interesting. Would still be reading that but it was a pre-order. Next, for sure. 

[ transcript ]

Hey, it’s David Levin. Author of Raise Your Inner Game, co-author QBQ, Founder of Raise Your Inner Game Academy.

So, here’s a problem I see a lot. I wonder if you see this, too. Someone will be into self-improvement. They’ve tried various things – they read books, they go to seminars, they try meditation. And all those things are good, but their lives, inside, haven’t really changed much. The core struggles that made them want to improve in the first place are still there. They’re still beating themselves up all the time – doubts, worries, fears, insecurities. They’re still not taking care of themselves like they know they should. They’re still having trouble staying focused and getting things done, they feel like they’re behind all the time, distracted, stressed out. They get upset, they have a heard time shaking it. Life is just a lot more struggle than they think it should be, and the various self-improvement things they’ve tried haven’t helped with that.

So I know why that is. And I know it’s NOT what people tend to think it is, which is that there’s something wrong with them, right? That’s the saddest part of this. That really is what people think, and they tell me that. I tried meditation, as one example. Couldn’t make it work. Just something wrong with me, I guess. That is super sad, and it’s totally incorrect.

The reason we can try so many different things and still be struggling is not because there’s something wrong with us. It’s because none of those things teach the skills that directly address our core struggles. 

I’ve talked about this before, a lot, actually, because it’s one of foundations of Raise Your Inner Game, but the core skills we need are primarily cognitive control, but also emotional self-regulation and impulse control. And virtually none of the self-help material available teaches you how to develop those skills. They just don’t. 

So anyway, I wanted to talk about the primary skill again today, cognitive control, because I’m just reminded lately that it really is the most important and powerful and fundamental inner skill, and we just don’t think in those terms. Even people who’ve read the book, our natural reaction is to focus elsewhere. Here are a few examples of that. 

Say you’re a busy mom with too much on your mind. Stressed out, running behind all the time, having trouble sleeping. Just too much, too much to think about. We think the answer is to have less to think about—to check things off that list, make some space in our days. But that never happens. The list always has new things on it. And the truth is, even if there were less things on the list, you’d still find something to worry about. Right? So the answer is not to somehow have less things to think about, it’s to learn to shut the thinking off now and then. To just take a mental break and quiet your thoughts. And that is Cognitive Control. You direct your thoughts, you turn them off when you need to. Can you imagine? It’s an incredible relief, for one. But it also makes you more effective when you turn them back on. 

Another is when you’re working on a sticky problem at work, you’ve got something you’re trying to figure out, you’re looking for creative ideas, and they’re not coming. You’re struggling. Instinctively, we keep pushing and bearing down on the problem. But that doesn’t generally work. It keeps us stuck in the same mental track, and usually just gets us more frustrated and confused. 

Creative ideas emerge from our subconscious. When we get locked up in our thoughts it keeps us from seeing them when they come up. It’s sort of like white noise blocking out the background sounds. So the real solution is not to bear down harder, but to quiet your thinking and listen for the new ideas that bubble up. And this again, is pure Cognitive Control. You’re directing your thoughts to be still just for a moment and listening for what comes up. 

If you are a Highly Sensitive Person an HSP, which is something I’ve just started to be aware of, you get overwhelmed by being around people sometimes, by noise, by stimulation of various kinds. The instinct is to withdraw and isolate and protect ourselves from all the input. And for short periods, that does help. We do need to get away from that now and then. But after a while, it just makes us more vulnerable and leads to more isolation, which is not the way we want to live. We need to be in the world in order to be happy and to make a difference in the world. So the answer is not to isolate, it’s to learn to manage our reaction. When our instinct says “pull away” we can say, “no, let’s try this instead.” Again, Cognitive Control. 

So, over and over again, we see that our instinct is to focus on the apparent problem — our crazy to-do list, a sticky problem at work, too much stimulation, whatever it is we’re struggling with — our attention goes THERE, when the solution is actually somewhere else. It’s in being able to control our thoughts and emotions and impulses. 

That’s really the greatest trick that gravity plays. It gets us focused on our apparent problems versus the actual solution. 

But when you keep your focus on these core skills instead, all your struggles get easier. 

So I really encourage you to do that. Keep working on these core skills. Keep thinking about and noticing how your thoughts and emotions and impulses come up and affect you. The more you do that, the better you get at not falling for gravity’s big trick. Even when things are at their craziest, you can always keep your head and stay focused on what’s important. Or at least you can get back there as quickly as possible. 

If you’ve read the book, Raise Your Inner Game, read it again. There’s way more in there than you probably realize. If you haven’t read it yet, and this is sounding familiar, you probably should. It will help you more than probably anything else you’ve done. And that’s not boasting. It’s a statement of the power of these skills. You should also consider the advanced training, Raise Your Inner Game ACADEMY. The more time you spend with this material, and the more you internalize it, the more it will help you. I hear that over and over. And I imagine you can come up with your own ways to keep it in your mind and to incorporate it into your daily life, as well. 

But however you do it, it’s important to do because again, our instincts are not our friends in this. We tend to look to the apparent problem, but the solution is in the skills.  

So that’s what I wanted to talk about this week. A gentle but firm sort of reminder to stay focused on cognitive control. It really is the key to being your best and to reducing life’s struggles. 

In the news, the Academy is officially open for registration. Super excited about that. Been a LONG time coming, and it really is a great program. I’ll be saying a lot more about this in the coming weeks with the big initial promotion. But you are going to love this training.

If you are hearing this somewhere other than my site, come on over—davidlevin.com. Grab the free download there—3 things you can do right now to love your work and life again. That’s an excellent piece. Plus it gets your name on my newsletter list, so I can let you know about new posts and offers when they come out.

Also check out the podcast – David Levin Show. Love to have you subscribe and join me there. Been hearing good things from people on that. 

Otherwise thank you. Keep up the good work. And I will talk to you next time.

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